A court in eastern Finland has jailed a Russian family for up to five years for trafficking people through the Saimaa Canal to Finland.
At least 67 people were smuggled on that route in a motor boat by the family. Many of them, from Yemen, Lebanon and Turkey, had paid large sums of money to human traffickers already to get to Russia and didn’t know they would then be brought to Finland by boat.
Some of the smuggled people reported that they had been drugged or blindfolded before being put in the boat, which was intercepted by police in the Saimaa Canal last year.
Conditions onboard were said to be particularly arduous. Pregnant women and children were among those brought by boat through the Canal.
They were kept below deck, with no chance to escape. One Lebanese man described seven people in the engine room which was dark, cramped, hot and filled with diesel fumes. He said people had become exhausted.
“Everyone was sitting around the engine and almost clinging to it. If something had happened to the engine, they would have burned in the engine room” said the man in the pre-trial investigation.
Finnish authorities arrested the family after Border Guards stopped the boat at Lappeenranta last June with 17 people on board.
The court estimates the family had been able to earn around €100,000 from their human trafficking operation. Their boat was forfeited by the court.
Sergei Bukin, 67, was sentenced to five years in prison, as the court considered him to have played a key role in the criminal gang’s activities.
Bukin’s daughter Tatiana Krupenina was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison; and her 16-year-old son was given a suspended sentence of two years.
Seven other people accused of taking smuggled people from Lappeenranta to Helsinki had their charges dismissed.